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The Only Thing Worth Dying For: How Eleven Green Berets Fought for a New Afghanistan (P.S.) Paperback – January 4, 2011

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Product Details

  • Series: P.S.
  • Paperback: 424 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Perennial; Reprint edition (January 4, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9780061661235
  • ISBN-13: 978-0061661235
  • ASIN: 0061661236
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 1 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (312 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #21,361 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

The early, relatively heroic days of the conflict in Afghanistan are memorialized in this engrossing if glamorized war saga. Blehm (The Last Season, a B&N Discover Award winner) follows the exploits of Capt. Jason Amerine's Special Forces team Alpha 574, which choppered into Afghanistan in November 2001 to help future Afghan president Hamid Karzai organize anti-Taliban insurgents in the south. The team's mission—to turn chaotic and perpetually stoned Pashtun tribesmen into effective soldiers—seems impossible and, ultimately, proved unnecessary. Indeed, according to Blehm's account, the Green Berets' worst enemies were other Americans: meddling CIA honchos and army brass, a do-nothing Marine officer, and the air force spotter who mistakenly called in an air strike on 574's position, with ghastly results. The author overplays the comradely bond between Karzai and Amerine, who come off as a latter-day Washington and Lafayette, but doesn't quite succeed in wringing a military epic out of what was essentially a turkey shoot. Still, Blehm's warts-and-all account of the U.S. military machine in action is full of tension, color, and real pathos. 16 pages of b&w photos. (Jan.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.


“The Only Thing Worth Dying For is not only brilliant, it’s the one book you must read if you have any hope of understanding what our fine American soldiers are up against in Afghanistan.” (Former Congressman Charlie Wilson)

“A skillfully reported and masterfully written account of one of the most crucial moments of the War Against Terror. Blehm reminds us of the perils, the triumphs and the sacrifices made in the name of freedom.” (Bob Woodruff, ABC News correspondent)

“Through careful reporting and crisp narrative pacing, Eric Blehm has given us a thrilling, forgotten drama from the opening chapter of the war in Afghanistan. The Only Thing Worth Dying For will become an enduring classic of this extraordinary theater, where so much hangs in the balance.” (Hampton Sides, bestselling author of Ghost Soldiers and Blood and Thunder)

“Blehm provides powerful and unflinching insight into a real-life mission that ended in tragedy but left an indelible mark on history. From the comic moments to the bleakest hour, it’s a testament to how a small team of well-trained men can shape a nation’s destiny.” (Stephen Grey, award-winning author of Ghost Plane: The True Story of the CIA's Torture Program and Operation Snakebite: The Story of an Afghan Desert Siege)

“Eric Blehm has written a literary masterpiece about modern war. The whole witches’ brew is here: valor, honor, heroism, cowardice, incompetence, stupidity, triumph, blood, death and despair. That America has soldiers like these should fill every American heart with pride. Read this book!” (Stephen Coonts, bestselling author of Flight of the Intruder and The Disciple)

“No other book has gone to such depths in research, nor been so descriptive in recounting this critical mission during the earliest days after 9/11 when the US Army Special Forces successfully waged unconventional warfare in Afghanistan.” (Sergeant Major Billy Waugh, author of Hunting The Jackal and Isaac Camacho, An American Hero)

“The greatest story of a small unit’s battle through an untamed land since Lawrence of Arabia.” (Adam Makos, editor of Valor Magazine)

“A captivating account of our heroic warriors-a remarkable U.S. Army Special Forces unit’s hard-fought success against incredible odds. It reads with the thrill of fiction-but this is the damned deadly real deal.” (W.E.B. Griffin & William E. Butterworth IV, best-selling authors of The Traffickers and The Honor of Spies)

Customer Reviews

The book is well written, easy to read, and well researched.
The author has done a tremendous job conveying the story of this ODA and their account of the war in Afghanistan.
Blehm is an excellent writer and did painstaking research for this book.
Bradley D. Larson

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

93 of 96 people found the following review helpful By Non-fiction Reader on January 19, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I've read a lot of books in this particular genre, and this is the first time I've been compelled to post a review--the book was THAT good. While sticking to the historical facts as to the events which transpired in the build up to and initial invasion of Operation ENDURING FREEDOM, Eric Blehm presents a fascinating page-turner. I absolutely couldn't put the book down, and at times had to remind myself I was reading a non-fiction book. If you're interested in how low-level, tactical leaders in our armed forces truly influence the nations of the world, this is a must-read. Blehm clearly did his homework and must've conducted hours of interviews with the surviving members of ODA-574, as his insight and account of the harrowing ordeal read as if I was there with them. Read this book--you won't be disappointed.
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41 of 43 people found the following review helpful By J. D. Johnson on January 22, 2010
Format: Hardcover
As a reader addicted to military history and accounts of warriors who have actually fought the battles, I am blown away by this book. The author has done exhaustive research and portrays the events that took place with this SF team with very detailed descriptions of technology, tactics, mission planning all as if these men were friends of yours. Eric Blehm takes you inside their lives, their personal conflicts and triumphs, and let's you understand how men can do exceptional things with exceptional commitment to their mission and themselves! The men under Captain Jason Amerine depict why the Green Berets and their other SF brothers are capable of overcoming adversity that couldn't be planned for through constant preparation and unwavering committment. Given the ability to think on their feet and to take action as required when required time after time. I couldn't put this book down. I encourage you to pick this book up, strap yourself in, and be prepared to feel tired, dirty, sweaty, and completely exhausted as SF Team ODA 574 accomplish great things under the leadership of a young captain who believes in his men and trusts them to protect each other...and Hamid Karzai, from the Taliban and the 11th century tribal system inside of Afghanistan that could become a civil war destroying everything.
My heart felt thanks to the men and women of our armed forces and to those capable of earning selection into the special forces. You truly stand above the average man...and I'm glad you do!
Now it's time to pick up more Eric Blehm...he is a wonderful author.
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34 of 37 people found the following review helpful By Jessica Wiley on January 19, 2010
Format: Hardcover
This is the first book I've read by author Eric Blehm. I was absolutely impressed by his ability to spin war history into a story you can't put down. In my opinion everyone should read this book to gain a better understanding of the war in Afghanistan. More importantly; with the current state of conflict it reminds us of how it all began.

I found the story insightful both politically and humanistically; the type of novel that is discussed in history class or thoroughly enjoyed at home. Mapping the big picture area of operations following 911 down to small team tactical decisions and finally the personal stories/relationships of the Special Forces Team ODA 574. The team members are developed to an extent that I internalized their experiences, family and know them by first name. The book also gives an interesting, candid first hand understanding of Hamid Karzai's journey to the presidency, focusing on his faithful deep connection with Afghanistan.

This book is very real, I laughed and cried. As a brutally, touchingly honest story of men at war, I cannot recommend this book too highly.
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful By USMC Sniper on October 14, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The vast majority of the reviews have rated this 5 stars. I would rate it higher if possible. The author, Eric Blehm has done an excellent job explaining the life of a SF team and what they can be assigned to accomplish. As indicated by the book the team was given a job in a new environment following 9-11 and as usual for SOG given very little specifics. They were making some of it up as they went along and by all accounts doing the job and accomplishing their assigned goal. Their problems started when the REMF's arrived from HQ to only "observe" the operation. Never in my lifetime have I ever experienced an observer who out ranked the troops on the ground "strictly observe". There is some defect within these "observers" brain that malfunctions when they arrive onsite. In this case the observers were an 0-5 and a 0-4 watching over the shoulder of a 0-3. The 0-3 was a team leader and was qualified for the position or he would not have been there. We have all seen it before the REMF's wrangle a way to get to the action so they can get a notation in their 201 file that says "he was there" and maybe pick up a medal. In this case their involvement was to interfere by directing the team leader to follow their orders and then they involved themselves into an unnecessary airstrike that took the lives of over 50 friendlies and crippled most of the survivors. Their obvious desire to earn battle stories for the "O Club" cost these men their lives. If these observers had of admitted their "war" had past them by and stayed in the rear where they belonged those who died might still be with us today. Both Officers should have faced a court martial. Excellent book but rotten result. It is a must read.
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More About the Author

Eric Blehm is a bestselling author and award-winning journalist. Winner of the Barnes & Noble Discover Award (2006) for The Last Season, a gripping account of the disappearance of legendary National Park Service ranger Randy Morgenson, Blehm has distinguished himself as one of America's most important new non-fiction writers. In 2009, The Last Season was named by Outside magazine as one of the ten "greatest adventure biographies ever written." Blehm's latest book, The Only Thing Worth Dying For (HarperCollins, January 2010), has been hailed by former congressman Charlie Wilson, of Charlie Wilson's War, as a "must read" among books about the current war in Afghanistan.

In 1999, Blehm broke ground as the first journalist to accompany and keep pace with an elite Army Ranger unit on a training mission. His access into the Special Operations community and reportage set an important milestone for American war journalism two years before reporters began to gain widespread embedded status with the U.S. military in the War Against Terror. His coverage of the Ranger training, along with a reputation for following stories to remote and/or risky environments--snowboarding the rugged mountains of Iran, stalking native golden trout through California's High Sierra backcountry, retracing lost miners' routes in the deserts of Death Valley, jumping out of planes in New Zealand--led Blehm to the previously untold story of an elite team of eleven Green Berets who operated in the hinterland of Taliban-held Afghanistan just weeks after 9/11.

The Only Thing Worth Dying For is the fruit of three-plus years of investigation into the first Special Forces mission in the south of Afghanistan and the ensuing battles, which resulted in the fall of the Taliban and the rise of Hamid Karzai. By winning the trust of men from ODA 574, the Green Beret team tasked with the mission, Blehm has been able to reveal in extraordinary detail how these resourceful U.S. soldiers managed to foment a rebellion among the Pashtun and forge a new Afghanistan from behind enemy lines. It is telling of Blehm's ethic that he met and received the blessing of family members of the men on the team who were killed in action before embarking upon the telling of this story.

In addition to writing books and articles that take readers into the depths of fascinating subcultures, Blehm is a recognized voice in the search-and-rescue community for his detailed reporting of the Morgenson investigation--one of the most extensive search-and-rescue operations in National Park Service history. He is also widely known for his participatory coverage of outdoor sports and topics in the realm of adventure travel. He has contributed to GQ, Outside, Men's Journal, Backpacker, Climbing, Couloir, Hemispheres, and the Los Angeles Times. Eric Blehm lives in Southern California with his wife and two children.

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